15 billion years of natural history gone by in a universe more than 30 billion light years across and expanding so fast that we will never see the furthest edge; the light is too slow to ever reach us. And, all the while, 90% of it has remained invisible in all ways but its effects; matter that is dark to us.
450 million years of life on a tiny ball of molten rock coated in a thin veneer of water, rock and air before we arrived in the scheme of all this. And a mere 70,000 years ago our numbers dwindled to 2,000. We stood poised, as a species, on the brink of extinction. Surely, if we had no successful moral code before then, these ancestors developed one.
They could not have survived if they didn't take in the orphans. They would not have come back from the edge if they did not do it together. They must have put their instinct for the survival of the group above the survival of the individual. Compassion must have found a strong toehold in this bunch. A sense that we live on in each other, in our children, in our tribe must have been strong. How other could it have been?
And knowledge of when the berries would be ripe, the location of fresh water and the traveling habits of prey became tales held as sacred as life itself. For this knowledge of the seasons and the geography of vital resources were, indeed, life itself. They were life and our place in it.
And so, a link to the past, the literal definition of 'religion', is history and tradition, an oral almanac. Once a religious system becomes too rigid to integrate new information and realities, it, eventually, is relegated to the realm of mythos. It has its place but comes with its own inertia. And perhaps that inertia has its place as well. Perhaps healthy change must have something to push against for the sake of stability and traction.
Science shows us that, while there are no true surfaces and all matter is a kind of crystalline energy, everything is connected in the time/space continuum back to the singularity and on into the future until universal equilibrium is reached. After that, it may be 'as in the beginning so in the end.'
Intelligence might be summed up as the ability to draw maps. We map memory and geography, mathematics and music, time and climate, stars and shorelines, families and enemies, predators and prey, and on and on.
But what are we mapping? Who drew the territory that we map? Or, perhaps, not who but what? Was it always here, like this? Or does it always change?
I've heard it said that Cleopatra once warned: "Never mistake the map for the territory." Sage words indeed. We mark things incorrectly and the territory is not fixed. Even continents divide and collide over time and the sun will swallow the earth in some distant future.
To me, creativity is the ability to find connections or the significance of connections where these connections were not seen or held significant before. It is how we blaze new trails in the territory of the universe; outward to the stars, inward to the strong and weak forces, and even to the edge of the mysteries of the mind.
Lightning in a bottle. Who would have guessed? Yet I flick a switch and there it is; as literal as a compact fluorescent bulb I bought for eight bucks. Not the work of one cartographer but many operating within the realm of the possible transformed by the power of the imagination; of creativity.
And spirituality, to me, is the degree to which I am aware of the web of interconnectivity that, clearly, ties it all together into the 'one turn' - the universe.
So, while billions cling to Bronze Age books and stories of angry, anthropomorphized gods and remain but one god away from atheism, I wonder: is clinging to this god a sign of unconscious acknowledgement of the truly amazing tapestry of everything seen through the tiny, conceited lens of “it’s all about us”?
The one thing I am more sure of than anything else is that, whatever this is about, it’s not all about us.